The Summit of Ancient Latin Mathematical Competence: Apuleius and Augustine

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According to all we know, Latin Antiquity was utterly unfamiliar
with the theoretical aspects of mathematics; Quintilian did not know finger
reckoning from geometry, while Cicero explains that the Romans were not
interested. Authors of handbooks in the liberal arts may know some definitions
from the Elements and perhaps some enunciations, but hardly understood what a proof is. Symptomatic is what Latin authors have to tell about Archimedes: the
story about his death and his defense of Syracuse; the anecdote about Hieron's
crown and Archimedes's exposure of the fraud; his mechanical model of the
heavenly system; at most they know that he drew figures. There is never a hint
that such figures were connected to geometrical or mechanical proofs, theorems
or theory. But there are two exceptions to this rule, both Berbers (Africani), and
both conscious of being so: Apuleius of Madaura, and Augustine of Hippo (and
both obviously much better known for other things). Even though the Western
part of Northern Africa acquired the Latin tongue while the Eastern part spoke
Greek, some of its intellectuals were drawn to advanced Greek thought in a way
those of the remaining Latin world were not, spellbound as the latter were in the
charms of rhetoric.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationActes du XIIIe Colloque Maghrébin sur l'Histoire des Mathématiques Arabes (COMHISMA13)
EditorsMahdi Abdeljaouad, Hmida Hedfi
Number of pages14
Place of PublicationTunis
Publication dateDec 2018
ISBN (Print)978-9938-40-399-2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Event13ième colloque maghrébin sur l'histoire des mathématiques arabes - Tunis, Tunisia
Duration: 30 Mar 20181 Apr 2018
Conference number: 13


Conference13ième colloque maghrébin sur l'histoire des mathématiques arabes

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